Six teenagers have been cleared of the joint enterprise murder of a 14-year-old boy who was fatally stabbed, but two have been found guilty of manslaughter.
Gordon Gault was slashed on the arm with a machete as he rode on the back of a friend’s e-bike in Newcastle’s West End in November 2022, and died six days later in hospital, Newcastle Crown Court has heard.
The fatal attack, which also saw one of his associates slashed in the back, came against a background of tit-for-tat violence between two groups who were looking for each other that night, jurors were told.
Six defendants aged between 16 and 18 denied murder and wounding with intent.
Carlos Neto, 18, of Salford, and Lawson Natty, 18, of Newbiggin Hall, were found not guilty of murder but were convicted of manslaughter. They were also found guilty of unlawfully wounding the second victim and will be sentenced in March.
Two other 18-year-olds, Benedict Mbala of St John’s Walk, Newcastle, and Daniel Lacerda, of Paddock Close, Ferryhill, were found not guilty of all charges.
A 17-year-old and a 16-year-old, who cannot be identified due to their ages, were also cleared of all charges.
The jury heard rap lyrics featuring the death of the 14-year-old were found on some of the defendants’ phones by police.
Summing up before he sent the jury out, Mr Justice Martin Spencer said the prosecution case was that the six went on what was known as a “ride” or a “glide” into a rival group’s territory of Elswick.
They were armed and intending to carry out a revenge attack after one of their members, Benedict Mbala, had been attacked earlier that day, the court heard.
Defendant Carlos Neto, 18, struck Gordon in a surprise attack, the court heard.
The judge said Neto’s case was that he was acting in self-defence and he reminded the jury of Jason Pitter KC’s comment, defending, that what was said in rap or drill music was not necessarily true, just as Bob Marley and Eric Clapton had not really shot a sheriff.
Other defendants claimed they were only in Elswick that evening to film a video for social media to show they were not scared of their rivals, the jury was reminded.
Daniel Lacerda, 18, claimed to be an outsider, from a different area of Newcastle from his co-accused and he had engaged in “ludicrous big talk” in messages to try to fit in.
The 16-year-old defendant, who cannot be named, was not a member of the group and did not know all the co-accused he was with that night, the court heard.
Following the conclusion of the trial, Gordon’s mother Dionne Barrett said: “We as a family will never get over Gordon’s death.
“To those who didn’t know Gordon, he was a practical joker, always laughing and had a heart of gold.
“He cared for his family and friends so much. He was a big softy and loved his dog, Bruno.
“He was such a happy, loving young son who lit up the room with his energy.
“Life will simply never be the same without him.
“I want youngsters to understand the huge dangers of carrying knives.
“By carrying knives, you could not only ruin your life but that of your family and friends as well.”
Anna Barker, a Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS North East, said: “The violent confrontation at the centre of this case was as senseless as it was tragic.
“Whatever differences the parties involved aimed to settle, it is painfully clear that there have been no winners. As a result of their clash, a young boy is dead with two others now facing significant prison sentences.”